By the end of the 1960s, the world-shaking Marvel Comics partnership of writer/artist Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee was on the skids. Ever since the debut of superteam the Fantastic Four eight years prior, the duo had been producing one hit superhero comic book after another, introducing most of the core characters of the Marvel universe, revolutionizing the industry, and altering the course of global popular culture. However (and please forgive the plug), as I demonstrate in my brand-new biography of Lee, True Believer, the two men had serious clashes over credit, recognition, ownership, and remuneration, and Kirby decided he’d had enough. He decided to jump ship and head to rival publisher DC Comics in 1969 — but not before he and Lee unveiled one last fictional figure. And now, that figure has burst into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Before we get to exactly who and what that character is, let’s just say: This seventh episode of WandaVision was better than the first five, but not quite as good as the sixth. If Vulture’s tyrannical recapping policies didn’t forbid half-stars, this one would get a solid 3.5. The action was exciting, for the most part, the weirdness and creepiness factors were at acceptable levels, the sitcom nods were clever, and there were not one, but two fake theme songs. However, the whole endeavor still doesn’t feel to me like it’s saying anything boldly original unless you squint real hard and pretend it’s all a meta-commentary on the MCU’s reliance on clichés. What’s more, the big twist at the end of this episode — the one involving that figure from the end of the ’60s — is a perfect example of the bizarre, perhaps-troubling fact that watching WandaVision is a wildly different narrative experience based on whether or not you’re familiar with the comic-book source material.
In the opening seconds of “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” the title’s promise is fulfilled — as many on the Internet had predicted, the sitcom reference point this time around is, more or less, Modern Family, complete with characters addressing the audience in interview snippets filmed like a documentary confessional. We see Wanda waking up and noticing that Vision’s side of the bed is empty, then she’s in a blue flannel bathrobe, telling an unseen interviewer, “Look, we’ve all been there, right? Letting our fear and anger get the best of us, intentionally expanding the borders of the false world we created.” Cut to a quick flashback of goofy bongo music playing while SWORD soldiers run in terror from the growing Hex, then back to sitcom comfort.
Tommy and Billy run into Wanda’s bedroom and say their “game is freaking out” — flashback cut to the lads playing with relatively modern video-game controllers that suddenly warp into Pong-era joysticks, then into Uno cards. Billy comments that “My head feels weird; it’s like, really noisy.” Wanda says she’s resting her eyes and kicks them out. In confessional, she says she’s planning on “taking a quarantine-style staycation, a whole day just to myself. That’ll show me.” (Slightly weird to see the MCU acknowledging the concept of quarantine, but let’s leave that be.) In bed, she takes off the sheet and is revealed to be dressed in brightly colored spandex, curiously enough. She goes downstairs to pour a bowl of Sugar Snaps with almond milk, but the almond milk warps into whole milk in a carton, then in a glass bottle. It appears that the sitcom setup is on the fritz, jumping back and forth between time periods. “Yeah, I’m not sure what that’s about,” Wanda muses to the interviewer. “It’s probably just a case of the Mondays, am I right?” Cue wordless theme song that just shows the name “Wanda” in various fonts and contexts, culminating in a title card: “WandaVision,” which the text says was “Created by Wanda Maximoff.” But … was it??
We head back to a new SWORD mobile headquarters, farther out and thus away from the expanded Hex. Despicable little bureaucrat Hayward is talking to an underling, who tells him the Hex (conveniently) stopped expanding, and that the signal of the sitcom broadcast is gone — “dead air.” Hayward seems determined to execute some mysterious play; “We launch today,” he orders her. Ruh-roh.
Meanwhile, Vision is on the ground somewhere, waking up, as the aspect ratio gets a little taller, for some reason. We see that he’s on the grounds of a traveling circus, filled with clowns and sideshow types. “You’re the new clown?” asks a strongman (whose presence is a nod, perhaps, to the fact that Superman, the first modern superhero, was partially modeled on circus strongmen), who notes that Vision’s face, all robotted up, looks like he has his makeup already on. Vision sees Darcy, who’s chained up as an escape artist (she tried for the bearded lady, she tells us in a confessional cutaway, but her “alabaster” skin just couldn’t pull it off) and doesn’t seem to remember seeing Vision at the Hex breach mere moments before.
Back in Westview, Wanda asks Tommy and Billy if they’ve seen their dad; they respond in the negative. They reference Pietro and his claim from last week that Vision is dead, but Wanda snaps that he’s not their uncle and therefore not to be trusted. She tells the boys that they want her to have answers she can’t provide, and that she’s “starting to believe that everything is meaningless.” Bouncy sitcom music plays throughout, adding an air of incongruous unease.
While sitting on the couch in sweats and slippers, with a son on either side of her, Wanda hears the door open: It’s Agnes! Wanda says she’d get up to say hi, but she just doesn’t want to. Agnes grabs the kids and says she’ll watch after them so Wanda can have a mental-health day, making a joke about needing someone to look at a mole on her back as she exits with them. Now alone, Wanda goes back to chewing her Sugar Snaps, only to see various objects around the home glitch out into their older selves. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” she says in confessional. She certainly doesn’t look it!
Cut to Jimmy and Monica in a SWORD military vehicle, doling out exposition. Jimmy reads Darcy’s hacked info about Hayward’s plans on his phone, saying there’s a project called Cataract, in which Hayward was trying to revive Vision and use him as a sentient weapon, only to have Wanda steal the cyber-corpse. They arrive at what looks to be a secret meetup near the Hex with some SWORD members who are loyal to Monica, not Hayward, and who roll out a big-ass vehicle that looks like the illicit offspring of a geodesic dome and a monster truck. “Did we get your specs right?” one of the soldiers asks. “She’s perfect,” is Monica’s reply. So wait, did they build and deliver this thing over the course of, like, 24 hours? Am I missing something?
Whatever, we’re back at the circus, where zippy, faux-old-world music plays and Vision struggles to get Darcy to remember who she is. He then uses his powers to restore Darcy’s mind (why he didn’t do that before is beyond me) and when she introduces herself as Darcy Lewis, Vision says he intercepted info about her work at one point. They hit the confused strongman and run to an RV-size funnel-cake truck to make their getaway.
Wanda’s at home, where the glitches are getting more extreme and the stork from episode three even makes a cameo appearance. “I don’t understand what’s happening: why it’s all falling apart and why I can’t fix it,” she says in confessional. Then, a voice from behind the camera asks, “Do you think maybe this is what you deserve?” Wanda, confused, counters with, “What? You’re not supposed to talk.” Whaaa?
Commercial time! This episode, it’s a send-up of the sort of antidepressant ad that has become all too common in our extremely depressing, drugged-up contemporary existence, complete with a sad lady and a narrator asking if the viewer has ever felt bad. “Ask your doctor about Nexus,” the voice says, “a unique antidepressant that works to anchor you back to your reality — or the reality of your choice.” Side effects, we’re told, include “feeling your feelings, confronting your truth, seizing your destiny, and possibly more depression.” (That last bit reads all too true for all too many users of SSRIs, but that’s another story.) The tagline reads, “Nexus: Because the world doesn’t revolve around you. Or does it?”
Agnes is sitting with Tommy and Billy at her suspiciously ornate and wood-paneled home, where Billy pets Señor Scratchy, the rabbit from earlier in the series. He says he likes that the bunny is “quiet” and that Agnes is “quiet on the inside.” Tommy asks if Wanda is okay and Agnes says she sure is, because “she’s super-mom,” then gives a Jim Halpert look to the camera that’s followed by a confessional in which she says, “You try telling a 10-year-old that his mother is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”
Monica is getting decked out in what looks like a space suit and Jimmy tells her godspeed as she gets into the SWORD vehicle. “It’s our most heavily armed space rover,” says a military type to Jimmy. “She’s gonna sail right through, unharmed.” Monica puts the thing in gear and drives toward the Hex at full speed, only to crash into it, with the front just barely entering and the rest struggling to get through. “The density is matching hers!” someone cries out. The truck sparks and looks as though it’s disintegrating, but Jimmy muses, “No, it’s being rewritten.” Monica escapes just as the rover gets spat out by the Hex, revealing that the front that entered has been turned into that of a dirty pickup truck. Monica, unfazed, takes her helmet off and decides to run in on her own.
Upon entering the breach, things go very 2001: A Space Odyssey, with multiple versions of Monica jutting out of her like apparitions and bright colors and echoing voices from her past all swirling around. She makes it inside the Hex, but she sees everything within it in strange hues. What’s more, her eyes are ice-blue. They revert back to their usual brown and the usual shades of Westview return.
Back in the funnel-cake truck, Darcy is explaining to Vision the events of Infinity War, specifically his death before Wanda’s eyes. They run into a traffic light in the middle of a desolate road. Then it rains. Then there’s a construction crew. Vision says he thinks Wanda is creating impediments to keep them from exiting the Hex; “I’m not amused,” he muses. He says he doesn’t know what he is, if he was once a computer AI and a genocidal robot, but no longer is those things. Darcy says one thing she knows is that his love for Wanda is real. Aww.
Back to Westview, where Wanda is popping pills at her house. Monica bursts in and Wanda yells at her to get out and doesn’t want to hear any bad news — “All you do is lie!” she shouts. She tries to crush Monica by tossing her up and down with telekinesis, but, strangely enough, Monica is unharmed … and her eyes light up again. So it looks like Monica has superpowers, y’all! Given that she’s a superhero in the comics, that’s hardly surprising, and it is not explored further. All the better to tease you with. Monica tells Wanda that Hayward is gonna burn down Westview and make Wanda out to be the villain.
Agnes looks out of her window to see what’s going on and seems concerned. Monica says she, too, knows grief (her mom died, remember), and that she can’t control her pain anymore — nor does she want to, “because it’s my truth.” Agnes walks over and says Monica has overstayed her welcome, then escorts Wanda away. Wanda mutters to Monica, “Don’t make me hurt you.” Then, wouldn’t you know it, that mysterious mailman from the previous episodes walks by with some packages on a roller. He says and does nothing … but why do we keep seeing him like this? Is he Wilie Lumpkin or something?
We get no answers on that, but we do get to see that Vision and Darcy’s truck is now blocked by a long line of schoolchildren. Vision is then in a confessional, saying the experiences of Infinity War feel so long ago that they’re like they happened to someone else — but for Wanda, “it was mere weeks ago.” He says he doesn’t know why he’s doing this damn interview when he should be getting to his wife, so he gets up and rips the lavalier microphone off his chest and flies away. “So I’ll just meet you there, then?” Darcy calls to him.
Agnes brings Wanda into her home, which looks even more like a creepy old mansion than before. She sets her down in front of the table where Tommy and Billy had been eating their lunches, and where kids’ TV is playing on the set. Señor Scratchy is in a cage, she notices, and there’s a weird-looking bug on the drapes. Wanda asks Agnes about the twins; the latter says they’re probably playing in the basement. Wanda walks to the basement door and looks into the dark area below, calling after the boys. No response. She walks down the steps and through hallways covered in what are either big vines or tree roots.
She gets to some kind of inner sanctum that looks like it’s part of a European castle or something, all stone and eerie light. There’s a glowing object, perhaps a book, on a shelf. Then, in wafts the voice of Agnes, sounding quite supervillain-ish in her tone. “Wanda, Wanda,” she says, strolling into the light with the rabbit in her arms. “You didn’t think you were the only magical girl in town, did you? The name’s Agatha Harkness. Lovely to finally meet you, dear!” Her eyes glow and Wanda gets mind-whammied.
Abruptly, we get an entirely different credits sequence, this one for a show called “Agatha All Along,” complete with peppy music and lyrics about Agatha manipulating everything we’ve seen already. We get a montage of shots of her magically altering the course of events in the previous episodes, winking to the camera as she yells, “And I killed Sparky, too!” She cackles. The end. Well, until the mid-credits sequence, when Monica wanders to Agnes/Agatha’s backyard door into the basement, opens it up, and hears Pietro, who’s suddenly behind her, say, “Snoopers gonna snoop.”
Okay, so, yes, Agatha. I’ve already run over the word limit, but suffice it to say she’s the Marvel character that first appeared in those late-period Kirby/Lee comics. She was initially a Fantastic Four figure, a magically powered governess for that super-family’s young son, Franklin. But over time, she evolved in the Marvel mythos into being Wanda’s masterfully magical mentor (as well as a survivor of the Salem Witch Trials). What, exactly, they’re going to do with her here remains to be seen.
What’s interesting (and, perhaps, frustrating) about this whole situation is that comics heads have been predicting that Agnes was Agatha for frickin’ months, since before the show even premiered, so the revelation feels largely flat as a twist. But if you know nothing of the comics, maybe it was a thrill! What a strangely bifurcated viewing experience! Y’know what, I’m not gonna be a hater here, if for no other reason than Kathryn Hahn rules and it’ll be nice to see her get to ham it up as a super-baddie. Get those fandom dollars, Kathryn!